Page last updated at 20:01 GMT, Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Families' tribute to firefighters

Clockwise from top left: Ashley Stephens, Darren Yates-Badley, Ian Reid, John Averis

The families of the four firefighters killed in a warehouse blaze have spoken of their dedication to the job.

Amanda Baylis, said her son Darren Yates-Badley "loved his job" and serving the Alcester community.

"He always gave 100% - this is a retained station and they are on call 24 hours a day," she added.

He was one of three firefighters given a guard of honour by up to 200 fire staff as their bodies were brought out of the Atherstone-on-Stour plant.

A fourth firefighter died in hospital following Friday evening's blaze.

I can't find anyone in the town who can remember anything which has affected so many people
Alcester mayor David Hancox

Mr Yates-Badley's young widow Fay told how the couple had married less than a month ago.

"It was beautiful day," she said. "He was the love of my life and we were meant to be together forever.

"But I know that he will save a place for me in heaven."

She added that her husband had been "a hero".

'Great sadness'

The town of Alcester is about ten miles from Atherstone on Stour. Two of the firefighters, Ashley Stephens and Darren Yates-Badley, were based at Alcester fire station.

Ian Reid, 44, who died in hospital, and John Averis, 27, were based at nearby Stratford-upon-Avon.

Fay Yates-Badley
Fay Yates-Badley said her husband had been a "hero"

Paul Stephens, the father of 20-year-old Ashley, is also a firefighter. He described the family's devastation.

"It's absolutely beyond anybody's worst nightmare to know that your son is in there and we've come away from the incident knowing he's still in there, " he said.

"In 26 years that I have been in the service to never have a problem and then my son after two years loses his life. It's so unreal and so heartbreaking."

Alcester mayor David Hancox said it had had an effect on the whole community but at least now the bodies had been found the "interminable wait" was over.

He said he had been with families and colleagues of the firefighters when the first body was discovered.

Mr Hancox added: "We are a close-knit community and this has touched the lives of every single one of us.

"I can't find anyone in the town who can remember anything which has affected so many people."

Families tribute

The families of the four men have all spoken of their love and dedication for the job.

Ashley Stephens, a retained firefighter with a three-month-old son, followed in his father's footsteps and joined Alcester Fire Station in April 2006.

The guard of honour for the Warwickshire firefighters

His fiancee, Emma Crocker, and parents Sharon and Paul said they were numbed by events.

"He was totally dedicated to his job as a firefighter and he also enjoyed his role working for a local joinery company. Ashley was shy and gentle and loved his job in the fire service," they said.

Ian Reid's wife, Julie, said: "Ian loved the fire service, he would spend so much time at the station and would take up any training opportunity that was on offer.

"He really got on well with everyone at the station and he knew many of his colleagues from growing up in Stratford."

His 11-year-old daughter, Sophie, said she would miss him being around all the time.

"My dad would do anything for me and he would take me to football every weekend. He was a lovely person and would help me with my homework."

'Small fire service'

Tony Nutting, of the Fire Brigades Union, spoke of the state of shock which was affecting the service.

He said: "Certainly for Warwickshire it's going to have a massive effect because they're such a small, tight fire service, a lot of retained duty system people, and it will have a massive effect and it will take a lot of time to recover from."

Police investigations into how the fire started are continuing - 140 police personnel are working on the inquiry, which is still being treated as suspicious.

A special incident room has been set up at Stratford police station with up to 200 firefighters who attended the incident due to be questioned.

A total of 160 warehouse employees have already been interviewed.

Crews searching for the bodies were hampered by the perilous conditions of the warehouse.

Strong winds made it unsafe and search and rescue teams were asked to leave the building on several occasions on Tuesday.

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The firefighters were brought out under a guard of honour

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